Updated: Jul 3
This article will be the first of two analysing the German metal band Rammstein, and their view of German nationalism and American hegemony. This, the first instalment, will look at Rammstein’s take on contemporary German nationalism and its resonance through the ages.
I never thought I’d write an article about my guilty pleasure band, Rammstein. I’ve listened to them on and off since I was a moody 14-year-old. To some, they’re a bit of a meme. Although, their music is actually damn good if you give it a try.
I also admit I’m no metalhead. If you’re a metalhead, thinking I’m going to be throwing out some of the metalhead platitudes, unfortunately, you’re mistaken. I guess, if I’m honest, I’m a soft-rock normie - Rammstein are the outlier in my music taste.
Either way, I’m here to talk with you about Rammstein’s take on German nationalism. This analysis will focus on only one Rammstein song: Deutschland (‘Germany’, 2019). What’s more, this analysis will factor in aspects from the song’s music video, which is, by the way, one of the best music videos I’ve ever seen.
Both the song itself and its world-class music video, look at historic moments in Germany’s history. Shots of the Teutonic knights, the Holocaust and the G.D.R. remind the viewer of Deutschland's patchy history. Moments of elated triumph intercut with moments of sordid shame.
Rammstein, in their mixed message lyricism, asserts to the viewer that their love for their country is unreservedly hesitant – though, love it they do.
Lyrically, Deutschland reads like a love song to a damaged lover:
“Deutschland – mein Herz in Flammen,
(Germany – my heart in flames)
Will dich lieben und verdammen,
(I want to love and condemn you)
Deutschland – dein Atem kalt,
(Germany – your breath’s so cold)
So jung, und doch so alt,
(So young and yet so old)”
There can be no doubt that Germans, since the end of the Second World War, have felt a sense of national shame. Nazism and the Holocaust were state-enforced crimes, to which many Germans were responsible.
That said, in the modern age, Germany has so much to be proud of. A world-famous infrastructure, a great culture and people, and an even better football team… unfortunately.
Though the cloud of WWII still hangs over Germans & this song outlines it perfectly. In the second verse, Till Lindemann, Rammstein’s penman, utters the lines:
“Ich will dich nie verlassen,
(I never want to leave you)
Man kann dich lieben,
(One can love you)
Und will dich hassen,
(And want to hate you)
(Take-over, hand over)
Deutschland, Deutschland über allen,
(Germany, Germany over all others)”
This notion, being outlined by a German, is extraordinary; a humble acknowledgement of Germany’s past, with a prideful look to the future.
‘In spite of our past, we’re a great nation’
What is German nationalism today? Well, the AfD currently holds 94 seats in the Bundestag – most of which were won by the Landesliste side of the ballot paper (I discuss German elections a little, here).
However, Germany goes into the 2020s with a renewed sense of national pride and strength. They are now the undisputed European powerhouse and have plenty to be proud of. As Germany grows in strength, it is difficult to see whether the AfD and the feeling of nationalism in some sections of Germany will grow or diminish. Ultimately, Germany has an easy relationship with nationalism, as its citizens have an unusual relationship with their history.
Whether Germany has good reason to be cautious of its past, or whether it can safely move beyond it, remains to be seen. Though what is clear, is that Rammstein's Deutschland outlines a uniquely German manner of engaging with their nation - equal parts alien as it is reasonable.
The second article in this double-header will be released tomorrow. In it, I’ll be taking a closer look at American hegemony through the lens of Rammstein’s Amerika (‘America’, 2004).
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